Regal FC Barcelona edged Union Olimpija 67-68
In another thriller in Ljubljana, Regal FC Barcelona survived Union Olimpija by a single point, 67-68. The guests managed to forge a 14-point lead, but Union Olimpija reacted from the defense and managed to even lead by as many as 4 points. In the final quarter however, Barcelona reacted and the points by Roger Grimau and a key steal by Ricky Rubio allowed Barca to secure the second iwn in the Top 16. Now, the win lifts Barcelona to a 2-0 in Group F, while Union Olimpija drops to 1-1. Juan Carlos Navarro led all scorers with 27 points, Erazem Lorbek added 12 in his comeback to his city and Grimau had 11. For Olimpija, Giorgi Shermadini and Kenny Gregory had 14 points apiece, Goran Jagodnik added 12 and Damir Markota had 10.
In a great atmosphere, Union Olimpija started with smothering defense on the defending champs and when Vlado Ilievski fed Kenny Gregory for the first basket,
the stands exploded. Regal FC Barcelona looked for Kosta Perovic in the paint to take advantage of his size while Olimpija tried to run, but a layup by Juan
Carlos Navarro kept things tied at 4-4. Ilievski insisted form the arc and the guests insisted in the paint until Navarro blasted a three to make it a 0-7
run for the 4-9. The Barca defense also worked well, forcing the hosts to difficult shots and in offense, the run kept increasing through Ricky Rubio and
Erazem Lorbek, 4-13. The shooting percentage of the guests was too high for Olimpija to hope for another scenario until Giorgi Shermadini stepped up to cut
the 0-15 with a three-point play for 7-17. Thanks to some free throws, Goran Jagodnik and Shermadini pulled their team under 10 points, 11-19, to bring the
first quarter to an end.
Gregory approached the basket to start the second quarter in style and Shermadini joined in soon from down low to make it an 11-2 run for Union Olimpija that
made it 15-19 to force a timeout of the guests. Roger Grimau cut the scoring run for Barcelona but Jagodnik finally managed to hit a three for Olimpija,
while in defense the hosts seemed to find their place again, to force Barca to make mistakes in offense. Navarro was back on court and as soon as he touched
the ball, two threes fell in to put things back in place with a 18-27 in the blink of an eye. Just on the shot-clock, Kevinn Pinkney blasted a three to keep
Olimpija alive but the defense of Barcelona didn't allow many siatuations like that because thanks to increasing the defensive pressure, the lead was back to
double digits as Lorbek tipped in the ball for 21-33. Ilievski finally found his first points and soon got used to it adding a three-point play in the next
move but Navarro had enough time to hit his 17th point just before the halftime break leaving Barcelona ahead by 10 points, 26-36, after 20 minutes.
The second half started at a high pace as Damir Markota and Rubio traded triples. Soon, Perovic slammed with no opposition to make it the largest lead of the
night at that point for Barcelona, 29-43. However, Union Olimpija didn't slow down and had a 7-0 after Shermadini free throws and an Ilievski three to make
it 37-45. Barcelona was now struggling in offense in front of the defensive wall of the hosts. The crowd pushed hard from the stands as the scoring run went
on to 12-2 for 41-45 as Saso Ozbolt stole the ball for an uncontested bucket. Gregory's one man show brought the game to a 2-point deal and it had to be, who
else, Navarro who stopped the bleeding for the defending champs. Barcelona was having a problem now with the three-pointers because they didn't go in while
Olimpija played offense with patience and Ozbolt lifted a layup for 47-49. Turnovers were starting to be a problem for the guests too at this point, and the
moment came: Jagodnik blasted a three to put Olimpija ahead for the first time since the first plays, 50-49, much to the crowd's delight. Navarro stopped the
bleeding with free throws, but the third period would end Markota's layup to make it 54-52 after 30 minutes.
Grimau opened the last quarter with a three for the guests to send a message, but Markota had a 5-0 run by himself to give Union Olimpija its best lead of
the night, 59-55. Lorbek and Grimau teamed up to erase the deficit and tie the game again, and defenses didn't allow for any easy points on neither side.
Navarro went to the line to hit both attempts with 5 minutes left on the clock. However, Ilievski fed Shermadini for a slam that brought the roof down to tie
again, 61-61. Nerves started to hit the hands of the shooters and it was Grimau, the captain, the man to keep his calm for the guests and Rubio appeared with
a providential steal that forced an unsportsmanlike foul from Ilievski. Three points came from that play, including Navarro's bomb to make it a 5-point game again, 61-66 and three minutes to go. Jagodnik stepped up with his experience to score for Olimpija with two straight buckets that made it 65-66 and two minutes to go. Ilievski fed Gregory to pu Olimpija ahead once more with 140 seconds to go. Barcelona called a timeout and Navarro obliged with two more points, 67-68. Gregory missed a three and the game entered the last minute as Grimau was now the one who missed. With 20 seconds, Gregory looked for the rim but missed and that saved the guests for a 67-68 final score.
Thursday, January 27, 2011